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Marriott fined $600,000 for blocking guests’ Wi-Fi

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(CNN) — Think hotels are deliberately blocking your personal Wi-Fi networks so you’ll buy theirs?

No, it’s not just a conspiracy theory. It turns out the federal government is concerned about it, too.

Marriott has agreed to pay a $600,000 fine after the Federal Communications Commission found the company blocked consumer Wi-Fi networks last year during an event at a hotel and conference center in Nashville.

At the same time, Marriott was charging exhibitors and others as much as $1,000 per device to access the hotel’s wireless network, the FCC announced Friday.

“Consumers who purchase cellular data plans should be able to use them without fear that their personal Internet connection will be blocked by their hotel or conference center,” FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc said in a statement.

Federal law prohibits people from using a device that interferes with cellular, GPS or wireless networks.

It’s the first time the FCC has investigated a hotel property for blocking its guests’ Wi-Fi, according to a senior FCC official with knowledge of the investigation. The unlawful blocking isn’t “jamming” in the traditional sense, where someone uses a jammer device to block wireless signals. Instead, Marriott employees were using the hotel’s own Wi-Fi system to block other people’s hot spots, the FCC official said.

The order doesn’t just affect one Marriott property.

Under the FCC consent decree, Marriott must not block guests’ Wi-Fi at all of the properties it owns and manages. The company must also file compliance plans with the FCC every three months for three years.

A federal investigation of the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville found that Marriott employees had used “containment features of a Wi-Fi monitoring system” at the hotel to prevent people from accessing their own personal Wi-Fi networks.

“It is unacceptable for any hotel to intentionally disable personal hot spots while also charging consumers and small businesses high fees to use the hotel’s own Wi-Fi network,” LeBlanc said. “This practice puts consumers in the untenable position of either paying twice for the same service or forgoing Internet access altogether.”

Marriott issued the following statement Friday afternoon defending its actions:

“Marriott has a strong interest in ensuring that when our guests use our Wi-Fi service, they will be protected from rogue wireless hot spots that can cause degraded service, insidious cyber-attacks and identity theft,” the statement said. “Like many other institutions and companies in a wide variety of industries, including hospitals and universities, the Gaylord Opryland protected its Wi-Fi network by using FCC-authorized equipment provided by well-known, reputable manufacturers.

“We believe that the Opryland’s actions were lawful. We will continue to encourage the FCC to pursue a rulemaking in order to eliminate the ongoing confusion resulting from today’s action and to assess the merits of its underlying policy.”

In March 2013, the FCC received a complaint from someone who had attended an event at the Gaylord Opryland and claimed the hotel was “jamming mobile hot spots so that you can’t use them in the convention space,” the FCC statement said.

Blocking a traveler’s personal Wi-Fi will only serve to aggravate hotel guests further, said Benet Wilson, who blogs about travel at AviationQueen.com.

“Travelers are already annoyed that higher-end hotels continue to charge for subpar Wi-Fi, which is why they bring their own,” Wilson told CNN.

“So it’s really galling when you hear of a company like Marriott, which has a good reputation that does something that causes a major inconvenience to its customers. And the fact that they profited off of their customers in such a blatant way also doesn’t help.”

Marriott and its brands operate more than 3,000 hotels in the United States, according to the company’s website.

The-CNN-Wire
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6 comments

    • athynz

      And don’t forget ISPs like Verizon and Comcast are angling to charge service providers like Netflix for data traffic on an existing infrastructure that was paid for by taxpayer money.

      • David

        Obviously you have as much to learn about the specifics and nuances of “net neutrality” as everything else you comment on. If you only read a fraction as much as you comment. But then you wouldn’t be “fat athynz” the village idiot.

      • athynz

        “DAVID
        Obviously you have as much to learn about the specifics and nuances of “net neutrality” as everything else you comment on. If you only read a fraction as much as you comment. But then you wouldn’t be “fat athynz” the village idiot.”

        David if you had even half a brain in your head we’d all be surprised. Seriously the only thing you can do is cower behind your keyboard and say things online you lack the stones to say in person. You are a cowardly, ignorant, trolling stalker with delusions of grandeur. If you had a clue about Net Neutrality you’d know that ISPs like Comcast and Verizon are doing their level best to get rid of it so that they in turn can charge providers such as Netflix more to provide those services -costs that would be passed on to the consumer, costs they claim are to keep up an infrastructure that was paid for by the taxpayers in the first place.

        Do you really want to keep on troll boy? Best thing for you to do is step away from your keyboard before you get more of your feelings hurt. Don’t like what I have to say – then stop coming here. It’s just that simple. Even someone with your obviously limited intellect should be able to comprehend this very simple concept. But you’ll come back and whine at me some more because you simply cannot help your craving for attention.

      • athynz

        “DAVID
        fat athynz, my intellect dwarfs yours. You cannot comprehend that fact. Get off the keyboard and grow up.”

        IOW David cannot rebut a thing I said so he resorts to feeble insults and grandiose claims of intelligence. Face it boy you are wrong and got called out on it yet again. In fact you’ve done nothing to prove you are so much smarter than anyone here and everything to show that you haven’t a clue as to what you are even commenting on. What I cannot comprehend is why you keep on commenting to me. And based on your posts you are the one who needs to grow up – you are unable to comprehend how an adult level conversation works much less have the ability to engage in one.

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